Paladin confirms Kayelekera Mine ‘intrusion’ by ex-employees

Uranium miner, Paladin Energy Limited has confirmed Nyasa Times report that a group of recently retrenched employees entered the Kayelekera Mine in Karonga on Thursday last week claiming they received inadequate pay out.

“A group of 32 former employees did enter the Site last Thursday, seeking to complain principally over the decision by commercial banks in Malawi to withhold severance payments in respect of outstanding loans owed to the banks by some ex-employees,” a statement by Paladin CEO John Borshoff posted on Australian stock-exchange said.

Paladin explained that Kayelekera management elected to meet the group, heard their grievances and provided individuals with letters addressed to relevant banks requesting sympathetic consideration of their situation.

The company said the situation remained peaceful throughout and the ex-employees presented no risk to personnel or property.

John Borshof : It was resolved peacefully
John Borshof : It was resolved peacefully

“They did not attempt to gain access to any secure area on the premises, which nevertheless went into lock-down mode as a precaution,” said the statement, adding “Police reinforcements were called to the Site, but were not required. There was no adverse impact on the Kayelekera operations and production continued as scheduled.”

The mine retrenched 110 workers without giving them enough notice and even without telling them the criteria for selection.

Paladin says the retrenchments were carried out in compliance with Malawi law and International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions with affected employees receiving all due entitlements and termination packages which exceeded minimum requirements.

It is now rumoured that another group of 95 people face the chop.

However Paladin through its General Manager for International Affairs Greg Walker says: “Management is aware that there are “false prophets” spreading rumours of plans for further retrenchment of staff at our mine. These people seek to boost their image by pretending to have information that they do not actually have. We wish to assure employees that there are no plans for further retrenchments at this time.

Walker further states that management cannot provide absolute guarantees.

“Factors outside the company’s control, such as any further deterioration in the market price of uranium or any significant unforeseen increases in the costs of our operation may create a need for us to re-visit this issue sometime in the future,” said Walker in a statement to Nyasa Times.

Paladin appealed that the very survival as an operating mine requires the positive input and commitment from all employees to achieve safety, environmental, production and cost targets.

“We call on all employees to ignore rumours of any kind and to focus their efforts on meeting our goals such that we can preserve all of the remaining jobs on the mine into the future,” Walker said.

Surprisingly, the foreign workers that are doing non-essential work are still retained by the company.

There is a growing chorus in Malawi that the southern African nation should  review its contract with Paladin.

Paladin Energy transferred a 15% stake in Paladin Africa – which owns the mine – to the Malawi government in terms of a development agreement signed in February 2007. In return, the Malawi government reduced the company’s corporate tax rate from 30% to 27.5% and a 10% resource rent tax was reduced to zero.

Now civil society and the opposition leaders  want government to renegotiate the deal and review the shareholding structure so that the State’s stake increases to at least 40%.

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